Last night was a school night, which makes for a very long day—a day capped off with a nearly fifty-mile ride commencing around 10:00 PM.
I walked out of class across campus and found Beast waiting right where I left her, poised gracefully on three points, calm and composed. The night air had already chilled from the twilight cool to the earnest cold of night, exactly what you would expect for early October. In a long-familiar ritual, I secured the items I wouldn't need for the ride, and geared up in what I would.
I rolled westward, and for the first time saw the moon before me. It glowed with the warmth of sunlight that has passed through earth's air, not the icy moonlight that so often rains down to make the coldest nights of the year. It appeared to be a perfect half-moon, smiling on the diagonal at the occult sun, teased in its passage by a lone planet dancing just above its crown. Its poignant beauty was enhanced by the faintest wisps of high clouds catching and amplifying the dusky light.
It stood before me as I rode westward towards the mountains, and I recalled a piece I had written many years before about such a westward ride in the night, never expecting I would actually make that cold and persistent ride. And as the miles rolled beneath me (snug within my heated cocoon, chilling air flowing around and through me) I noticed the moon was constant, always before me no matter how the road twisted and turned.
As I turned off the great highway southward on the lesser roadway, it rode directly before me, and I saw something I had never noticed before; the sparkling lights of a aircraft transecting the half-disk perfectly, looking like lunar fireworks and calling to mind Welles' 'War of The Worlds' and its reports of explosions on Mars...
At each hill I ascended on my westward path, the warm half-moon shone bright at the crest, as though to illuminate my road. As I crested each hill, it lit up the valley before, and rolled on westward to await me at the next peak. How it anticipated where I was going, I cannot fathom.
In the final stretch towards home, on the gentle ridge preceeding the gravel path down the hill and into the darkling woods, I paused and turned off Beast. I sat in the cold silence and looked back over my shoulder, for now that I had made my way home, the moon and I parted company. It was free now to go with its fellow traveler the planet, and cross the low broad mountains it faintly illuminated. I could make the last few miles without its help, and as I rolled around the penultimate bend, I caught a glimpse of it settling for the night into the deep cover of the pines, and the oaks, and beyond.
The chill of the night's ride stayed with me for hours, despite the warming jacket and a glass of hearty red wine once I had shucked my layers of gear. The great thick muscles are dull, massive, and slow to respond; I delude myself that I am mostly warm, and will recover quickly. But where there is no heat, no warming comes no matter how many blankets are piled on, and next time I will not count on the light of the moon to keep me warm.
Yet there is something to be said for a night's ride in such beatific company, that cannot be translated into simple warmth or comfort.